Budapest came after spending a few relaxing days in Croatia, and one not so relaxing afternoon at Plitvice where 6 silly Asians wore long sleeves and jeans while every other sane Westerner donned singlets and shorts because of the hot weather.
Having spent so many days away from proper civilisation (read : big metropolitan cities), I was looking forward to spend some time in the city again where Starbucks would be in sight, and I could quench my thirst for a frapppuccino.
In many ways, Budapest was surprising. I knew very little about Budapest, save for the fact that after watching the Grand Budapest Hotel, I imagined Budapest to be a barren piece of land with a huge pink hotel.
Suffice to say, I wasn’t expecting much. But like a tired rhetoric that has been reiterated throughout my time in Europe, the less you expect of a place, the more you’ll love it.
By this time, I’ve spent about 2 weeks in Europe and I’ve had my fair share of big cities, small towns and countrysides, I learnt that I was a city boy at heart.
Yet the fast-paced heartbeat of the city could sometimes be overwhelming. Rome, for example was not a pleasant experience for me. Rome was a city saturated with people and sights. It felt condensed and claustrophobic. The city felt exhausted from the transient volume of people fleeting past its many tourist attractions.
So like in life, a balance must be struck, and smacked right in the middle between city and country is Budapest.
Budapest was a beautiful blend of city and country, of urban and nature. The architecture was beautiful and the streets were peppered with small doses of greenery. It was city-like in its tempo, but unlike the huge metropolitan cities, it was more smooth jazz than hard rock. Walking along the streets of Budapest made me feel like I had a cameo in those old English films where men still wore top hats and women wore pretty frocks, while a distant but distinct sound of hooves echoed through the pretty streets.
We didn’t have a specific itinerary for Budapest. Since we only allocated 2 days for it, the aim was to do a free communist walking tour where the guide would talk us through the rich history of Budapest and Hungary, and head for the famous Budapest baths which is, of course the number one item that one must do when in Budapest. Budapest isn’t called the City of Baths for nothing. Apparently, Budapest remains one of the cities that has authentic Turkish Baths dating back to those in the 16th / 17th century, which means you literally dip your toes in history.
Let’s give some credit for the above pun. I took a long time to think it up.
I really enjoyed Budapest, and experienced pangs of regret having only set aside 48 hours to explore this beautiful city. It’s the kind of city that hosts indie musical festivals at one square, and a book fair at the next. It’s the kind of city I wouldn’t mind relaxing at a cafe, sipping on a cup of coffee and people watch.
It’s a city I would come back to again.